We have learned (through working with hundreds of individuals through the years), that there is more to acting out than meets the eye. Often times, acting out is simply labeled as being immoral or bad behavior. While these synonyms may apply, it is important to look at the meaning of the acting out. If an individual is going to gain control of the addictive (acting out) behaviors, the function that the behaviors serve must be uncovered. In virtually every individual we have treated, acting out, what ever its form, serves the purpose of assisting individuals in mood altering from negative mood states, or helping them to avoid looking at and (dealing with) painful aspects of their life.
When acting out takes place, a number of processes within the mind and body are activated. Among them is the psycho-physiological process. When an individual acts out, he can cognitively focus on something else which prevents him from having to focus on the negative aspects of his life. This provides psychological relief. In addition, when some one acts out, a cascade of neurotransmitters are released throughout the brain. Specifically, dopamine is released at an intense rate into a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens or the pleasure center of the brain. This is the part of the brain that is reinforced when an individual engages in life sustaining/perpetuating activities such as eating, drinking, or sexual behaviors. As the dopamine is released into this part of the brain the individual experiences a sense of euphoria and well being. This is the physiological pay off of acting out.
In order to stop the acting out, this process must be identified and the individual must acknowledge those things he is trying to avoid so they can be dealt with head on, and hence, eliminate the need for acting out.